78: “Dim Lights, Thick Smoke (And Loud, Loud Music)” b/w “Black Mountain Rag.” Okeh 18013. Recorded in 1953.

Image courtesy of The Rodgers & Hammerstein Archive of Recorded Sound.

Image courtesy of The Rodgers & Hammerstein Archive of Recorded Sound.

Known as The King of the Strings for his breakneck pace and virtuosity on the guitar, Joe Maphis was also a very capable singer. Born in Suffolk, Virginia but later settled in Bakersfield, California, Maphis made a name for himself with this song about a gal who lets nightlife get between her and finding a “home-lovin’ man.”

That’s Joe’s wife Rose Lee accompanying him on vocals. They toured as a husband/wife act years before Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash sang “Jackson” together. June’s mother, Maybelle Carter, was a guitar hero of Maphis’s, incidentally.

Their sassy, back and forth rapport was palpable, as can be seen in this take of “Paper of Pins” from the 1950‘s southern California TV show Town Hall Party.  It’s just about the sweetest thing I ever did see.

A similarly playful feeling can be seen in this version of “I Gotta Lota Lovin’” from the same show.

Note the double-necked guitar. That was built especially for Maphis by Semie Moseley, of Moserite guitars. The shorter neck was tuned an octave higher than the longer one; it now sits in Nashville’s Country Music Hall of Fame.

Joe Maphis would make a number of appearances on another country-themed television show, this one called Western Ranch Party. Here he is backing up Wanda “I dated Elvis and then got over it” Jackson.

And here he is with Larry Collins and Merle Travis, showing off some mighty fine pickin’.

When I think of how my childhood country music education came from Hee Haw and not shows like this, well, I can’t help but feel a bit cheated.

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